Richard and son Robert Caen
When we talk about creating a Jewish legacy, it has come to mean that we create a way to preserve Jewish institutions that enrich our lives and make our Jewish community a better place in which to live for future generations.
There’s little doubt that’s what Lenore and Morris (Moe) Caen (of blessed memory) had in mind seven decades ago, when they opened a uniform company – Mechanics Laundry – in their newly adopted home, Memphis. Not only were they out to create a successful business, but they put into place a Jewish business legacy for future generations in their own family.
This year, the Caen’s son, Richard Caen and his son, Robert Caen, celebrate the 70th anniversary of that business now known as Uniform Masters.
Moe and Lenore didn’t have much money to start their new business. They didn’t have any customers; not even any prospects. But what they did have was a dream and the desire to succeed. Moe’s determination paid off for future generations of his family. While many Jewish family-owned businesses in Memphis have come and gone in the past 70 years, Uniform Masters not only endured, it continues to grow.
Today, Uniform Masters thrives with 515 accounts throughout Memphis and the Mid-South. In addition to laundering, they offer customers personalized delivery, customized uniforms, floor mats, garment repair and replacement.
While building their business, the Caens also made the Jewish community an important part of their lives. They became members of Baron Hirsch, and Lenore was a member of Hadassah and a proud Lion of Judah. Together they were one of eight couples that helped launch the Memphis Jewish Community Center (MJCC).
Richard, and his wife, Dale, are members of Temple Israel and the MJCC and are supporters of Jewish Family Service and Memphis Jewish Federation. And now the third generation of Caens is equally active. Robert and his wife, Savannah, also are members of Temple Israel, where the fourth-generation Caen recently was blessed.
After Moe died in 1967, Richard took over the family business. He combined his law degree and a background in industrial management to reshape the company that his parents founded only two decades before. Richard knows that success didn’t come easy for the company, which evolved over the years from Mechanics Laundry Service, to Mechanics Uniform Service, to Master Service Systems before adopting its current designation, Uniform Masters, in 1993.
“To get his fledgling company off the ground, my dad drove an old Ford station wagon that leaked when it rained,” Richard said. “He serviced his customers by picking up their soiled industrial laundry and delivering cleaned garments. All the cleaning was done by hand. All the garments were 100 percent cotton and they were all folded by hand. Nothing was easy.”
The future of Uniform Masters is as solid as ever, based on Moe’s business model, which laid the foundation for future growth.
While the core business remains the same, the company’s services have expanded and its production and service plants are up-to-date. And in celebration of Uniform Masters’ seventh decade in business, the company recently underwent a rebranding of its logo led by Robert, who pushed for a more contemporary image of the company he one day will head.
“We’re entering our 70th year with the same hopes and dreams that inspired my parents,” said Richard. “Our dream is that we continue to grow our business, not just for us, but for generations to come.”